All that cabbage soup a prelude to tears

Standing over the scales crying is no way to start a week let alone end a diet.

Pop philosopher Alain de Botton says we'd all be a great deal more cheerful if we were a little more pessimistic. I believe him.

So the last place I was going to be happy was standing before the bathroom scales drenched in optimism.

My friend Hayley and I decided we'd remove every corner of light from our lives and do the as- horrific-as-it-sounds Cabbage Soup Diet. It's a seven-day torturous affair that sees you eat as much of this cabbage soup brew as you care to ingest while each day adding something else.

So on day one, it's cabbage soup and fruit, day two is cabbage soup, vegetables and a baked potato, day four you get a zillion bananas and as much trim milk as you can stomach and somewhere along the line you get meat and tomatoes.

It's not for the faint of heart. I'd never done anything like it before and I stuck to it religiously which is very unlike me because if diet regimes are for anything, they are for breaking.

But all the research (well, the internet) said that at the end of the week, I would be at least 4kg lighter. Of course, it also said much of the loss was through fluids and that I would put it back on almost immediately but, just this one time, I was going to do it and stick to it and be a real skinny malinky.

Naturally, the optimism was high when I stepped onto the scales. The loss was not 4kg. It was half that. And so I cried. How utterly ridiculous.

We set ourselves up for so much disappointment when it comes to weight loss. I'd emailed a colleague throughout the week with my cabbage soup antics and symptoms.

The missives contained brief summaries such as: "Ate lots of fruit and lots of cabbage soup. Went home. Felt angry. Ate soup. Exercised. Felt good. Then realised I had nothing to look forward to but soup."

"Microwaved a granny smith apple. Enjoyment. Sleep. Bad breath. Slight headache."

"Ate pumpkin soup for breakfast. Tried to imagine it was night-time."

"So much peeing. Ridiculous amount of peeing. Low level headaches remain intermittent. Breath appears to have worsened, according to my boyfriend, "like faecal matter, do not stand within 6 metres of anyone". Am not what you would call hungry, though. Surprising. Dry lips. Bad mood. Excellent sleeping." And so on.

When you've unloaded such things to a colleague who you don't know that well, it brings you closer. Bonded by the strange things we do to our bodies.

"Don't worry about the bad breath and headaches," she said.

"That's just your body going into ketosis and burning fat."

It was a new word to me. I started feeling pleased about the breath situation.

It made me believe something was really happening, which in turn set me up for all the tears on the scales.

Ketosis wasn't the only word we discussed.

The word 'diet' seems to have become a strange word as well. We are allowed to say we are doing a 'cleanse' but 'diet' is a bit in-your- face.

Which is strange, we reasoned, because most people we know are trying to lose weight. It's just that they are kind of embarrassed to admit it in company, as though it's anti-feminist to care.

There is the 5:2 fasting diet, the Whole 30 Paleo thing, calorie counting, no carbs, low carbs, no sugar, no fun and more. It's hard to know what to do any more.

The basics are of course, simple maths, burn more energy than you put in.

My week of extreme dieting is over. I'm pleased I did it. I found some self-discipline I'd misplaced along the way but the world of dieting is an odd one. And if I ever see another cabbage it will be too soon.

The Press